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Edward Bennett
Edward Bennett
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Family Law's top 10 articles of 2015
Date:21 DEC 2015
Clockwise from top left: The Family Court Practice 2015 hot off the press, an artist's impression of Ecotricity: Vince v Wyatt [2015] UKSC 14, the 5th annual Family Law Awards: the biggest and best yet, mandatory food standards for all court staff, Family Law Update 2016 coming to a venue near you, the first Family Law Session held in Bristol, our beloved snow covered Bristol Suspension Bridge, Costs in Family Proceedings (the perfect stocking filler).
It's the most wonderful time of the year...Falalalalalala la la. We're getting into the festive spirit here at Family Law HQ. It's a time for mince pies, eggnog and Mariah Carey (the best Christmas song ever, fact). It's also a time to look back fondly over the year and reminisce. Our analysts have been hard at work and have produced this list of our top ten most popular articles for 2015.

1. Ilott v Mitson [2015] EWCA Civ 797 

Number one is a bit of a surprise,in that it's an Inheritance Act case, but it obviously caught a lot of people's attention. Is this case an indication of legal aid cuts forcing family lawyers to spread their wings into other jurisdictions? Whatever the reason, we all wanted to read about whether the Court of Appeal would let Mrs Jackson's daughter keep £50,000 awarded to her at first instance, or whether the money would go to animal charities in accordance with Mrs Jackson's will. Mrs Jackson had been estranged from her only daughter for 26 years and her daughter had no expectation that she would receive anything, yet ... the Court of Appeal awarded her £143,000 to buy a house (plus expenses) and an extra £20,000 on top.

2. Supreme Court allows appeal in Vince v Wyatt [2015] UKSC 14

Gold-digging ex-wife entitled to millions of pounds after being divorced for a quarter of a century! No, that's not what the Supreme Court said - although you would be forgiven for thinking so, given some of the media reaction to this case. What the Supreme Court actually decided was that the Court of Appeal was wrong to strike out the ex-wife's claim. The Supreme Court confirmed that there is no power of summary judgment in the FPR 2010. The case would be remitted to the family court to be heard, but this didn't mean that the ex-wife would necessarily land a large award. In fact, the Supreme Court said that the ex-wife would face 'formidable difficulties' in obtaining a financial order in her favour. The case however, is a very good example of why it is so important to ensure that divorcing parties record their financial agreements in a court order.

3. Sharland v Gohil - Supreme Court decision - Wives win

It was the big finance case of the year, and here at Family Law HQ we were glued to Supreme Court TV to find out what would happen (Downton Schmownton, this was waaay better). The Court of Appeal had sided with the non-disclosing husbands; would the Supreme Court find a way to allow the wives' appeals? Yes, it did, with Lady Hale in the case of Sharland explaining that 'fraud unravels all'. The wives were pleased and family law professionals in general seemed to think it was the right result (or, if they didn't, they kept quiet about it!). You can read Hayley Trim's excellent analysis of the case here.

4. Recurrent misconceptions in TOLATA cases

In his article Rhys Taylor provided ten things to consider when dealing with a TOLATA case, ranging from advice about costs to what documents to get hold of. If you've a TOLATA case on the cards, read this article: it is really, really useful - no wonder it was one of our most popular articles of 2015.
(In case you missed it, Rhys won our 2015 Commentator of the Year Award, becoming the first lawyer to hold two gongs: he also won the Innovative Lawyer of the Year Award in 2012.)

5. Final Report of the Financial Remedies Working Group 15 December 2014

Right at the beginning of the year we published the final report of the Financial Remedies Working Group. The report included a wealth of recommendations with a lot to keep the Family Procedure Rule Committee very busy. We are waiting to hear what the next steps will be to implement some of the recommendations and for more amendments to the FPR 2010 to emerge. You can keep up to date with all the latest family law news by signing up to our free weekly email here.

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6. Cohabiting couple families are the fastest growing family type in the UK, according to ONS data

The Office of National Statistics released figures showing that unmarried cohabiting couple families are the fastest growing family type in the UK. So should the law perhaps finally catch up? Many family lawyers think so, with Resolution calling for reform of the law for cohabitants. If I could have a pound for every time I've had this conversation (OK, argument): Friend at pub/Person at hairdressers/Relative at wedding: 'Me and Johnny are common law husband and wife, so it doesn't matter that we're not "technically" married.' Me: 'There's no such thing as a common law wife/husband.' Other person: 'Yes there is.' Me: 'No, there really isn't; you can't rely on that.' 'Other person: 'I think you'll find there is.' Me: 'Argh...No!!!'. Please say I'm not the only one.

7. Appeal Court judge tells ex-wife to 'get a job' in maintenance payment dispute

Oliver Gravell's article about the case of Wright v Wright [2015] EWCA Civ 201 was our third most popular article. His analysis of the Court of Appeal's 'dramatic judgment' explained the significance of the decision and its likely impact. Did this case, along with the case of SS v NS [2014] EWHC 4183 (Fam) mark the beginning of the end of 'meal ticket for life' type cases?

8. Law Commission consultation paper concludes DoLs are 'deeply flawed'

In the fallout from the Cheshire West case in 2014 the Law Commission announced a consultation proposing a new system to replace Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards. The consultation closed on 2 November 2015 and a final report with recommendations and a draft Bill is expected to publish in 2016.

9. Bury St Edmunds not London identified as the likely venue for London and South East divorce centre

The Ministry of Justice, in response to a Freedom of Information Request submitted by Tony Roe of Tony Roe Solicitors, provided more information about centralisation for divorce processing in England and Wales, revealing (to the surprise of most lawyers!?) that Bury St Edmunds would process divorce petitions for London and the South East. It is expected that Bury St Edmunds will handle just over 40% of divorce work in England and Wales.

10. Family Law Awards - the biggest and best yet

On the 8 October family law professionals gathered for the fifth annual Family Law Awards to celebrate the achievements of the profession over the preceding year. Sir Mark Hedley hosted the ceremony and we were extremely proud to recognise the hard work and dedication of the winners and nominees, and of the family law profession in general. It was raucous, there were several standing ovations, and, of course, there was the unique sense of camaraderie that makes family law so special.

What a year. Is there anything you think should have been included in our list? Let us know over on Twitter: @JordansFamLaw. These are my personal favourites that didn't make the top ten:
  • Chip 'n' Ham made me snigger (Food Standards to be rolled out for all court staff)
  • The Day in the Life series is a really interesting read: its aim is to provide a glimpse into the working day of a range of people working within the family justice system. You can find out the best and worst parts of their day, their ideas for family law reform, and discover who was once asked to write a parenting plan for a dog...
All that's left to say is have a very Merry Christmas - see you in 2016!